Friday, July 12, 2013

A View Into the Mind of Trevor Timmins

Many thanks to Habs Eyes on the Prize for linking up the video of Trevor Timmins discussing the recent NHL draft. To read a transcript, this interview is as dull and uninformative as they come. but that's hardly the point. In the way he answers questions and to watch his body language, this Timmins interview is interesting and revealing.


First and foremost

Despite the awkwardness of using first and foremost to describe just about every aspect of hockey as his drafting department's decision process, there was a hierarchy if you listened.  

The first mention of first and foremost was size. I should note that Timmins mentioned this with regard to what the Canadiens got, not what he was targeting. When asked to elaborate on size he first mentioned Jakob De la Rose and stumbled when trying to think of Mike McCarron's name. He mentioned De la Rose a few times more and told the story about how the team made him the priority over Fucale on a calculated risk (Note Carolina's goaltending situation would make them a logical candidate to pick Fucale as well as De la Rose).

My take on this is De la Rose was Timmins's man. He would have taken him at 25 if he had things his way and was asked to wait with the reassurance of high second rounders. The surprise availability of Fucale at 34 was moot, Timmins needed to get his man at that point. The story about calculated risk is an afterthought, and would almost make more sense if you spun it with the picks 34/36 in the reverse order.

To say McCarron was not his first choice comes through almost obviously in the interview. He may have a mean streak, he's big. He has good skill (as we watch video of him fumbling through drills). Timmins thens hangs on the fact that McCarron is by far the most improved member of the USNDTP. If he was sitting watching the video, you can almost hear him saying the "so what" that I said as the words came out. To those not so impressed with the meager 5 goals the man among boys managed in the lower league, imagine watching him 2 years ago.

Timmins is too intelligent to actually believe that improvement from non-factor to big oaf with 5 goals and lots of enticement for NHL drafters will extrapolate to guaranteed progress as time goes by. It seems he's happy he got De la Rose and will be happy if McCarron ever works out. he doesn't seem to want to hang much on that pick.  

Skill and hockey sense
The second first and foremost was almost dismissed as if to say everyone drafted by an NHL team meets this criteria. Timmins alludes to skill and hockey sense at different levels. Well, I have a level of skill and hockey sense too. I think what we can take from this is that Timmins would intervene if he felt a drafted candidate fell below a mandated minimum in this regard.

This should make people happy. The guy clearly has some talent in spotting talent. To know he can strike off the no-goes before they make the list is a comfort. The interviewer did not press this issue with any particular choice, but one would have liked her to use this as a cue to ask about Connor Crisp.

I saw another interview with Timmins where he did address this pick and he simply acknowledged that every team sometimes has to pick a fighter/tough guy. Crisp, therefore, may not meet any standard of Timmins', but he's probably an acceptable pick to him in a team that compromises for many reasons.  

This is the biggest red herring there is. If stats don't justify a pick, everyone now simply invokes character. Character can't be questioned, because it was measured in a closed-door interview process of the highest rigour.

The other aspect of character I find ridiculous is the fact it is held aloft as something only this organization would prioritize. Big players, well 29 teams are after those guys. The Canadiens, they target character. Guess what guys, 29 other teams target character too, or at least everyone believes they are.

The problem overall is that judging character is one of the most difficult things to do, not only in hockey, but in life. If scouts could really judge character would Martin St Louis have been an undrafted reject of a few teams? You only really discover whether a player has the character to deal with the tests ahead by watching the player in those testing situations. It's very hard to extrapolate how a 6'5" player among 17 year olds will adjust to playing with people his own size and many more that have adapted to dealing with that size.

The list of players drafted for their character since Timmins arrived is as long as the list of players drafted by Timmins since he arrived. Some were misjudged. Other character players were passed over in favour of those without.

I never doubt for a moment their sincerity of belief after draft day that the team got the best collective of character. However, I think as consumers of these interviews, we should just remember that as good as they may be, our scouts aren't clairvoyants, the character line is sometimes used as a line to avoid talking about other decision points.  

Zach Fucale

A nod to difficulty in predicting character in far more adverse conditions than playing on the team with Pick #1 and #3 in the NHL draft, the comments on Fucale were interesting.

Clearly, there are some issues of consensus that exist outside the team that aren't as strong within the team. The fact the Habs used pick #25 and #34 to select players other than the #1 ranked goaltender from their home town tell us that organizationally the team feels its biggest needs are not in goal. Secondly, I wonder how truly important it was for the Canadiens to get this goalie, as opposed to say any goalie within the draft. They took two picks where they must have felt the risk of losing him was real (and acceptable).

The satisfaction with getting such a highly ranked and hometown player was very reserved from Timmins. if you watch him talk about Sebastien Collberg at #33, the emotion is uncontainable. he was thrilled to get Collberg. His take on Fucale is reserved. I think they'd have been happy with one or two other goaltenders if Zach had been nabbed.

All that said, there was a very interesting portion of the interview (at about 4:20) where Timmins recounts exactly why Fucale would be the first choice among goaltenders on the day. His competitiveness no matter what the situation. This is something Timmins says he has not seen in a draftable goaltender since Jaroslav Halak in 2003. Since 2003, Pekka Rinne, Tuuka Rask, Jonathan Quick and of course Carey Price have passed since. Maybe this says something about Timmins eyes for goalies (Quick seems a battler to me). But it surely also tells us something about the 2005 draft and what voices may have played a bigger role in the selection of our current goalie than our chief scout at the time (he who thought he had bagged the team a battler for the future only 2 years before).

I think from the perspective of the Fucale pick, it has to be seen as a good thing. To be rated highly by everyone and mentioned as a battler along the lines of the biggest battling goalie we've seen in a decade is positive. I think that it's a very good pick, particularly when we consider how underplayed the Montrealer possibly playing in Montreal has been thus far.  

Good draft

Overall, I'd say from this interview that Timmins thought the draft was a good one. The 2012 interview betrayed the fact he thought that one was great. I think on the whole he got some players he had eyes for (De la Rose in particular), but that he made compromises to need where he didn't have to the previous draft.

Interesting stuff. Like he says, we'll all see in a few years whose lucky guesses were right on the day.

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